Album of the Day — November 25
David + David
This a band that is not ironically named — irony wasn’t a big deal in 1986 when David + David released Boomtown.
Following that logic, it won’t come as a shock to learn that the two guys who make up David + David are both named David; David Baerwald and David Ricketts.
They are both songwriters and multi-instrumentalists who wrote and played every instrument on Boomtown, aside from drums, which Ed Greene handled.
Lest there be too much confusion, Boomtown refers to Los Angeles because, for much of its history, Los Angeles functioned as the quintessential American boomtown.
By 1986, when the album came out, Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” was in full bloom. Not surprisingly, the rising tide lifting all boats promised with Reaganomics didn’t pan out for most people.
These are the characters that drift in and out of these vignettes that David + David write about in Boomtown (again, irony).
The title track and the albums ‘hit’, “Welcome to the Boomtown,” reads as though it could be a treatment to a Paul Thomas Anderson film:
Welcome to the Boomtown
Ms. Cristina drives a nine four four
Satisfaction oozes from her pores
She keeps rings on her fingers
Marble on her floor
Cocaine on her dresser
Bars on her doors
She keeps her back against the wall
She keeps her back against the wall
So I say
I say welcome, welcome to the boomtown
Pick a habit
We got plenty to go around
Welcome, welcome to the boomtown
All that money makes such a succulent sound
Welcome to the boomtown
Handsome Kevin got a little off track
Took a year off of college
And he never went back
Now he smokes too much
He’s got a permanent hack
Deals dope out of Denny’s
Keeps a table in the back
He always listens to the ground
Always listens to the ground
CHORUS x 1
Well the ambulance arrived too late
I guess she didn’t want to wait
Let’s be clear; this is not the type of music you’re going to be playing before you go out on a Saturday night unless you’re going to a funeral.
The Los Angeles in David + David songs contain the types of characters you’d find in an Edward Bunker or Michael Connolly novel.
But for all of its dreariness, Boomtown is a drop the microphone kind of album. It’s probably a bit too literary and dark for many, but it’s just that good of an album for those willing. For reasons unknown, David Baerwald and David Ricketts split up after the album and wouldn’t record as David + David again.
Boomtown was a modest success, peaking at #39 on the Billboard album chart. With the aid of FM radio and three singles, “Welcome to the Boomtown,” “Swallowed by the Cracks,” and “Ain’t So Easy,” the record would eventually become platinum.
After the two David’s split, they went in somewhat different directions. But they both found success.
In the fall of 1992, with friend and producer Bill Bottrell (Shelby Lynne), David Baerwald co-founded the “Tuesday Music Club.” That name may ring a bell because it was the impetus, and many of its participants helped shape and make Sheryl Crow’s debut album Tuesday Night Music Club.
Baerwald and Ricketts partnered again on Tuesday Night Music Club as contributing songwriters.
David Baerwald recorded sporadically as a solo artist but primarily became known as a songwriter. Artists who have covered his songs include:
- Japanese classical artists the Yoshida Brothers
- Luciano Pavarotti
- Waylon Jennings
- Susanna Hoffs
- LeAnn Rimes
Baerwald also picked up a Golden Globe nod for his song “Come What May” from Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!.
David Ricketts began dating singer Toni Childs and became the producer and co-writer of Childs critically acclaimed debut album, Union. The album would be nominated for two Grammy Awards.
The Band founder, legendary guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson tapped David to help him work on Storyville, Robertson’s second solo album. Ricketts also produced and performed on Meredith Brooks’ 1997 album, Blurring The Edges.
David Ricketts won an Emmy for the song “Because You’re Beautiful,” co-written with Eddie Free and Toni Childs, for playwright Eve Ensler’s documentary V-Day: Until the Violence Stops.
- Robert Christgau — “Not only do these two studio rats know the follies of their chosen profession, they don’t romanticize them much — or else they romanticize them effectively, which is even rarer. Put it all together and maybe you end up with another piece of beautiful-loser mythology. But somehow this fallacy is acceptable in two guys you’ve actually never heard of, especially two guys with the guts (and interest) to apply their craft to at least one revolutionary fantasy. Sometimes winners are beautiful, too.”
- Michael Ofjord at AllMusic wrote — “Although there are often hints of hope and seemingly a sense of compassion toward the subjects in the songs, it is not apparent that most will eventually pull themselves out of their predicaments. One may not want to listen to this record to lift the spirit, but it is a strong reminder of difficult situations faced during what can be perceived by many as the best of times.”
David + David’s Boomtown is an album that oozes creativity. The songwriters paint the picture of what happens to people in the boomtown (or any town) who don’t always get what they want. It’s a great record, but it’s also a grim record.
In 2008, a fire swept through the backlot of Universal Studios. Like far too many artists to name here, the master tapes to David + David’s Boomtown were lost in that fire.
The magnitude of the loss from that fire is still being felt today. If you’re a music fan, it’s an unparalleled tragedy. But for the artists? It’s got to be a travesty. For our culture? It’s an incalculable loss (that’s not hyperbole either).
In 2016, the internet reported that David + David had begun recording a second album. But you know, the internet says a lot of things. However, as this dark chapter in American history comes to a close, it would be nice to hear what they have to say about it. They did a good job painting a picture of the 80s.